NBA

NBA AM: Rallying Behind Carmelo Anthony

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Let’s get this first point out of the way quickly: If New York Knicks All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony hung up his high tops today, he would be a future Hall of Famer. First ballot. Period. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame recognizes a potential inductee’s accomplishments in college, the NBA and the international game.

Anthony has thrived in all three areas.

The forward led Syracuse University to a National Championship as a collegiate freshman. Anthony is also the first U.S. Men’s basketball player to win three Olympic Gold medals. You can add more firepower to his resume when adding in the Olympic Bronze earned during the 2004 games. At the professional level, Anthony currently ranks in the top 30 all time in scoring, is a nine-time All-Star and a seven-time All-NBA selection.

But Anthony has a host of detractors. Some will point to only one conference finals appearance in 13 full seasons. Others will note he’s never been selected to the All-NBA first team. There are others who will point to his scoring prowess and make the harder-to-quantify point that he doesn’t make his teammates around him better.

Former head coach George Karl coached Anthony during the player’s first seven and a half seasons of his career. He was also the coach on the sidelines when Anthony reached his one and only conference finals. If anyone could set the record straight on Anthony, naturally, Karl would be a good starting point.

However, Karl’s view of Anthony recently came to light as the former coach sets to release his book “Furious George” to the public. In the book, Karl states the following about his former player:

“Carmelo was a true conundrum for me in the six years I had him,” Karl wrote in the book. “He was the best offensive player I ever coached. He was also a user of people, addicted to the spotlight, and very unhappy he had to share it. Wait. There’s more.”

It didn’t take long for some of Anthony’s former teammates, notably Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith, to rally to his defense.

Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek, in his first season with Anthony, quickly responded to Karl’s assertion that the forward struggled as a leader.

“Things like that could be a distraction,” Hornacek said according to The New York Post. “Depends how the player reacts. The biggest thing is Carmelo Anthony, for us, has been great — whatever happened in the past, let other guys talk about. What I’ve seen out of Carmelo here, he’s done everything we asked and what the coaches want him to do.

“He [plays defense]. His leadership defensively is that. He’s a very smart player when he’s on the court. Plays are happening, you see him directing traffic out here to get us to where they need to be. He’s been a great player for a lot of years, helped a lot of teams. People have their opinions. Just move on and let it go. With Carmelo, he knows it’s in the past, whatever it is. His focus has really been on this team and the new players we have and try to be a leader for this team. It’s very commendable.”

Anthony was more measured in his response, but the disappointment hearing the negative commentary coming from his former coach was clearly evident.

“It’s irrelevant,” Anthony said. “The good thing is the truth of the matter is everyone else is speaking up for me from their own experience. So I don’t have to speak on it [until] I write my book later.

“It’s tough. If this would have come out years ago — I haven’t been in Denver in six, seven years. When you’re there, it’s a different story than what you hear afterwards. I never knew it was this much. I never knew I was a — what’s the word, conundrum? I don’t even know what the hell that means. Anybody you ask, assistant coaches, players, front-office people, anybody you ask will sing a different tune when it comes to me and our mentality on that team. We came together, we stuck together as a team, and at the end of the day, that’s all we had. It took us far. Not far enough to where we were able to win a championship, but we came together as a team because of all that.”

The Knicks (16-13) are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference standings. The team hasn’t reached the playoffs since the 2012-13 campaign.

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About Lang Greene

Lang Greene

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last eight seasons

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